In a setback to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), the Bombay High Court has dismissed its appeal against acquittal of one Eknath Kalmetkar in 1996 from charges under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act) observing that the evidence produced by the investigating agency did not inspire confidence.
A division bench of justices Sadhana Jadhav and Prithviraj Chavan dismissed the 25-year old appeal of the NCB observing, “There are no independent witnesses. The overall evidence does not at all inspire confidence and, therefore, it is highly unsafe to rely upon such evidence.”
The NCB had approached the HC challenging acquittal of Kalmetkar and Jafar Khan by the special NDPS court in March 1996. Khan died in June 2014 and hence the case against him was abated (dismissed due to death).
According to the prosecution, Shastrinath Sawant, Superintendent, Central Excise, received reliable information on August 29, 1991, that the following day a consignment of Mandrax tablets would be in Mumbai along with hidden in goods in a tempo. The NCB officials intercept the tempo.
Sawant summoned two pancha witness (persons before whom police initiate an investigation) and a search was conducted of the consignment. The packages contained lungis and beneath those lungis, they found certain tablets kept in polythene packets. The entire consignment was taken to the customs examination godown. Drug identification test was conducted on random tablets and he result was positive for Methaqualone. All the packets weighed about 480 kg.
Kalmetkar and Khan were arrested on August 31, 1991.
After four days, i.e. on September 4, 1991, NCB intelligence officer Deepak Bhambri deposited the seized drugs in the customs godown.
Under Section 50 of the NDPA, a statutory right is granted to a person suspected of possessing any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to be searched before a Gazetted Officer or Magistrate.
In this case, the tempo was searched in the presence of two individual panchas.
The NCB has also failed to produce evidence to show from which place the consignment was loaded and was destined to which foreign country.
“The prosecution witnesses cannot be accepted as a gospel truth, more particularly, in light of the fact that the prosecution has failed to establish that the accused, in fact, was in conscious possession of the contraband,” added the HC while dismissing the NCB’s appeal against acquittal.
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